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Press Release 10-03-2011

Town of Clarence and Western New York Fire Companies Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Suit

Fire Companies Had Barred Older Firefighters From Receiving Service Credits in Retirement Benefit Plan, Agency Charged

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Town of Clarence, N.Y., and the Clarence, Harris Hill, East Amherst and Swormville Fire Protection Districts and Volunteer Fire Companies will pay $441,740 to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The damages will be made in retroactive payments to a group of 35 firefighters, including the beneficiaries for eight deceased firefighters who had been discriminated against based on their age. Several firefighters will also receive increased monthly pension amounts going forward.

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that the town and the fire departments refused to let volunteer firefighters over age 62 accrue service credit under their "Length of Service Award Programs" or "LOSAPs," the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age. The suit further charged that the East Amherst Fire Protection District and Volunteer Fire Company prohibited volunteer firefighters over the age 55 from accruing credit. As a result, the senior firefighters kept working but did not receive credit for their service once they reached the maximum age. The EEOC said this age restriction constituted a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law that protects workers age 40 and older from age discrimination.

Although the fire companies amended their LOSAPs in January 2006 to allow firefighters to continue to earn award credit without regard to age, they did not credit those firefighters for the years in which they had lost out. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Civ. No. 1:11-CV-00286, on March 30 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, following an investigation by the EEOC's Buffalo Local Office.

Elizabeth Grossman, EEOC regional attorney for the New York District Office, said, "We are pleased the firefighters will finally receive the compensation they are rightfully due for their years of firefighting and bravery."

EEOC Trial Attorney Judith A. Biltekoff added, "We appreciate the fire departments' efforts to resolve this matter without protracted litigation."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available on its website at